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Wrist fracture: How to deal with lingering pain

Wrist fracture: How to deal with lingering pain

It is common for residual pain to last for a few months after recovery from wrist fracture
When an external trauma (from a fall or external pressure) causes a fracture at the wrist joint, it is called distal radius or wrist fracture.
Post-surgery, the main course of recovery for wrist fracture is through physiotherapy sessions.

In the last week of September 2022, 56-year-old Sushila Kumar from Bengaluru had a nasty fall while getting down from her car. She suffered a fracture in her right wrist, which required surgery. Her hand was placed in a cast for almost two months. After assessing the recovery, the cast was removed but Kumar kept experiencing wrist pain. The doctor prescribed physiotherapy so that the pain could be reduced and she could regain proper mobility.

Fast-forward to January 2023 and things have gotten better, though Kumar still finds it difficult to lift heavy objects or handle additional strain.

It is common for wrist pain to linger on, along with restricted movement, after a fracture in the joint. One reason is the wrist being immobile for a long time while inside the cast. The pain can last up to a few months after ‘recovery’, and in some rare cases even for a year.

A 2013 study, Pain and disability reported in the year following a distal radius fracture: A cohort study, examined disabilities and pain in 129 patients who suffered distal radius or wrist fracture. It concluded that severe symptoms subside within the first two months while majority of the patients are expected to have a minimum level of pain and disability for about six months following the fracture.

The main course of recovery revolves around physiotherapy sessions. But the rate of recovery also depends on the physiology of the person.

What is distal radius or wrist fracture?

The forearm is made up of two bones: the radius and the ulna.

The end of the radius bone connected to the wrist is the distal radius. When an external trauma (from a fall or external pressure) causes a fracture at this joint, it is called distal radius or wrist fracture.

Role of surgery, physiotherapy in wrist fracture recovery

“In case of a wrist fracture, half of the recovery work is done by the surgery and the cast, while the remaining half is done by physiotherapy sessions,” says Dr Anil Chaudhary, an orthopedic surgeon based in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

“The plaster remains for six weeks, following which it is important that the person attends the physiotherapy sessions without fail. Under the supervision of a good physiotherapist, they can regain the movement along with subsidence of pain in about three weeks. But yes, some residual pain will be there, which may continue for some time.”

Role of the mind in managing distal radius pain

Dr Chaudhary says that even after the removal of the cast, which is done after ensuring the distal radius is completely healed, there remains a certain amount of psychological inhibition regarding the strength of the wrist joint in most people. This hinders the efforts of doctors and physios.

“The entire recovery from wrist fracture will depend on the efforts made by the affected person,” says Dr Chaudhary. “Sometimes those around will advise them not to lift certain things or the person will not make sufficient efforts. Psychologically, all the inhibitions should be removed, and the medical advice should be followed. If done, then the patient will recover fast.”


  • Post-recovery, physiotherapy sessions are of the utmost importance to overcome the lingering pain and hampered range of motion in distal radius or wrist fracture.
  • Psychological approach of the person also plays an important role in the overall recovery from wrist fracture. All inhibitions need to be overcome, say experts.
  • The residual minor pain, which may remain for a few months, can be overcome with systematic care.

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